Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Let’s Bake.

MV S3674-LR Irish sodabread muffins-680

St. Patrick’s Day greetings from the cafe kitchen. Like people all over the world, Irish or not, we always join this annual celebration of Ireland and its rich culture. Part of which, of course, is the food.  

Ages ago I found a quick, simple and delish recipe for classic Irish Soda Bread in The Joy of Cooking. I made some tweaks, loved the results, and it became a St. Patrick’s Day tradition. I’ll be making it again tonight and wanted to share it with you.

But what about those muffins in the banner? Irish muffins? Well, sometimes you just want to change things up, try a new spin on a traditional treat. Enter Irish Soda Bread Muffins, a happy find from the King Arthur Flour website: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/irish-soda-bread-muffins-recipe. 

That green Irish fairy dust on my muffins above is matcha powered sugar. To make it, simply mix matcha tea with powdered sugar.

Here is my Irish Soda Bread recipe. It makes one small loaf as in the photo.

MV6706-2021-LR Irish Soda Bread-680

My Eclectic Cafe Quick Irish Soda Bread

Adapted from recipe in The Joy of Cooking

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (125 grams) flour: 1 cup white whole wheat, 1 cup unbleached all-purpose
  • ¾  teaspoon baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon kosher salt (I use Diamond)
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil (or 3 tbsp olive oil + 3 tbsp chilled unsalted butter)
  • ½ to 2/3 cup nondairy buttermilk (See Preparation below)
  • 1/3 to ½ cup golden raisins – or other raisins you prefer (optional) 
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • Turbinado sugar (large, coarse-textured cane sugar crystals) for sprinkling 

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. I bake this bread on a pizza stone. If you choose that method, be sure to preheat the stone along with the oven. You can also use a greased bread pan or 8-inch cake pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and sugar.
  3. Make the buttermilk by mixing nondairy milk (such as almond, cashew, coconut) with ½ tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Give mixture about 15 minutes to curdle and be ready to use.
  4. Using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers, cut the olive oil (or olive oil and butter) into the flour mixture until the texture is crumbly. (Kerry Gold unsalted Irish butter is my favorite for baking.)
  5. Stir the raisins (if using) and caraway seeds into the flour mixture.
  6. Gradually mix in the buttermilk. Use enough so that the mixture is moist, not dry. Use your hands to fold over a few times to make sure all ingredients are well-combined. No yeast-bread-type kneading required. (Lightly oiling your hands to fold and form the dough works better than flouring them.)
  7. On a floured board or piece of parchment paper, form the dough into a round loaf. Cut a cross on top, letting it go over the sides so the dough won’t crack during baking. Brush the top with water or nondairy milk, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar for a nice crunchy crust.
  8. Bake on middle rack of oven for approximately 40–50 minutes, or until the top is a rich golden brown. Be sure to check during baking, as time will vary with your oven.
  9. This recipe makes a small loaf just right for our household of two. It’s most delish served warm. Cool briefly on a wire rack before cutting. Great with orange marmalade or that Kerry Gold butter.

Note: I didn’t find the precise recipe I adapted online, but this one with shortened directions comes closest to it: https://sites.google.com/site/jfhrecipes/home/recipes/joy-of-cooking-irish-soda-bread

The original is from The Joy of Cooking, 1964 edition, © The Bobbs-Merrill Company Inc., Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker authors.

For those like me who didn’t get to bake earlier, these recipes –– especially the bread –– come together quickly, so you may still have time to get them in the oven.

If not, don’t wait until next St. Patrick’s day: The bread and muffins are great any time you crave the wonderful caraway flavor that distinguishes Irish soda bread.

Copyright M. Vincent 2021. All photos copyright M. Vincent.

Pumpkin Butter Chocolate Chip Muffin Day

MV_1045_PumkMuffins (640x480)

I’ve often wondered about those “days” in calendars or other publications that don’t correspond to established world holidays or celebrations. Who comes up with things like Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day? Old Maids Day? World Nutella Day?  As you might suspect, many were created by marketeers to promote products, services, issues or causes. Others, who knows?

This week I decided to make up my own. It was a cold, windy day in our generally temperate Southern California winter, and after a brisk walk by the ocean with my partner – shivering in several layers of clothing, plus hat, scarf and gloves – I was craving a tall hot coffee and a sweet treat to go with it.

I love the combination of pumpkin, classic fall-winter spices and dark chocolate, and muffins would be quick to bake …  A jar of pumpkin butter in the cupboard completed my inspiration. The result: a spicy, chocolaty, nutty muffin, low in fat and healthy too. A muffin that should have its day.

Pumpkin Butter Chocolate Chip Muffin Day is a moveable feast. Celebrate it any day you like from now until spring, whenever it’s winter in your part of the world. The muffin recipe follows. The rest of the celebration is up to you.

Pumpkin Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (125 grams) flour: ½ cup whole wheat, ½ cup unbleached all-purpose
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½  teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼  teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
  • 1/3 cup (about 66 grams) brown sugar, packed
  • ½  cup pumpkin butter
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (60 grams) dark chocolate chips (mine were 70% cacao)

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices (cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, if using). Add the brown sugar and whisk it in well. Set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine pumpkin butter, egg, almond milk and olive oil.
  4. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour the pumpkin butter mixture into it, and stir just until all the ingredients are blended. (Don’t mix too long or vigorously or the muffins may turn out tough. Add a bit more almond milk, if needed, to moisten flour mixture completely.)
  5. Fold walnuts and chocolate chips into the batter. Spoon batter into a lightly greased 12-cup muffin pan.
  6. Bake until lightly browned and a pastry tester or toothpick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean: 12 to 15 minutes. Take care not to bake too long. Let muffins cool in pan 1–2 minutes, then transfer from pan to a wire rack.

These muffins are best served warm. Stored in an airtight container, they stay flavorful for several days and can be reheated in the oven.

MV_0963_PumkMuffins on rack (640x480)

What’s your favorite unusual celebration day? Leave a comment. Comments on the muffins welcomed too.

Note: If some celebration days on your calendar or elsewhere leave you quizzical, see checkiday.com, a varied collection of “days,” several with information about their origins. Another good resource is nationaldaycalendar.com, which tracks fun, unusual days, weeks and months; I found World Nutella Day there, with a link to founder Sara Rosso’s interesting story about its kickoff and history.

Copyright M. Vincent 2018